Sunday, May 21, 2006

Just what il dottore ordered...

Thursday night, our friend La Dolce Vita flew in from San Francisco. We set our sights on Locanda Vini e Olii for a few reasons: a) its close by b) La Dolce Vita loves Italian food & culture (so do I) c) we would be eating late, and Italians are good at the eating late thing.

Locanda is a wonderful outpost on this side of DeKalb. It sits on a quiet dark corner, beckoning you to come into its warmth and friendliness. A round of heartfelt "Bouna Sera!"'s greeted us as we entered. There was a festive group in the front, enjoying a long meal with lots of wine. We were seated near the tempting desserts towards the back of the renovated pharmacy. It is a beautiful space with dark woods, shining pieces in the polished cases, warm lights and wonderful aromas from the kitchen which mingle with the smells of the fresh made espressos at the bar.

The menu changes according to the fresh ingredients available. It also states right up front that one is expected to eat a "typical" Italian meal (of antipasti, secondi and primi piatti), and the servings for each round were therefore compensated to allow one to enjoy all of the courses. For me, the cost of the dishes (and the vegetarianism) would give me pause in ordering that much food. Luckily having attempted the typical Italian meal on more than a few occasions while in Italy, I knew that I wouldn't need that much food even if the portions were smaller. (I love to eat food, just not in mass quantities - ask me about Vegas and my tasting menu experiences some time).

La Dolce Vita, G-pup and I shared the fresh bruschetta platter for our antipasti (one of tomato & basil, one of eggplant, one mushroom puree and one chicken liver which none of us would eat). They were all fresh and full of the flavors of the vegetables presented upon each of them.

We followed the antipasti with a round of salads, Dolce had the Beets and Young Pecorino Salad: a scrumptious mix of beets, pecorino, baby spinach and pears. I went for the Dried Sicilian Figs and Gorgonzola (of course I would) which was a taste party of figs, gorgonzola, baby lettuce and walnuts. With an ample handful of figs and large gorgeous slabs of gorgonzola, this was a dreamy salad. G-pup went for the Farro di San Giovani, a grain salad of yellow fin tuna, black olives, tomato, basil and farro. (He seemed to like it, cleared the plate and I couldn't get more of a description from him, maybe I can get him to comment).

For the main part of the meal we all opted for pastas - Dolce and I took the suggestion of the waitress (with the impeccable Italian accent) and had the Maltagliate (badly cut) L'Erbette. They were large sheets of pasta playing around (not swimming - a more perfect amount) in an olive oil and fresh herb sauce (I am forgetting the ingredients here). It was quite a different flavor - green and fresh and very tasty. A truly unique pasta dish (which is what the waitress had promised). G-pup had fresh and fluffy gnocchi with tomato and basil.

Having sat next to the desserts, we were tempted enough to leave some room in our tummies for a sampler of flourless chocolate cake (a little too crumbly for our tastes) and lemon pie (which wasn't remarkable in any way), but the fantastic grappa that I had for dessert more than made up for what was missing in the dishes.

Locanda is a real treat to have in the neighborhood, if I had loads of money (which I don't) I think I would split my time between there and Ici. It felt distinctly and beautifully Italian, and the food was interesting, fresh, and flavorsome.

Locanda Vini e Olii
129 Gates Avenue at Cambridge Place
Hours: Tue-Thu 6-10 pm
Fri-Sat 6-11 pm;
Sun: 6-10 pm
(Closed Sunday)
All major credit cards

Other reviews: New York Magazine, NYC Pulse, Village Voice, CitySearch, MenuPages, EatingForBrooklyn, New York Times, New York Eating, L Magazine, Chowhound, Dodgeball, Village Voice Best Of, New York Magazine Brooklyn Episode

Sunday, May 14, 2006


I love making up crap titles for these posts. (see here, and here).

I kept my promise to myself and my blog and made it out for some delish Clinton Hill food, and boy was it worth it. We took the C train home from 'the city' and got off at Lafayette for a nice evening's walk through the neighborhood. We were headed to the other side so we got to walk through all the beautiful brownstones and townhouses in the area. Lot's of green on the trees and those crazy purple flowered trees (anyone know what they are?) are in full bloom. (We have one right outside our window too). G-pup and I were hungry, so it was hard to walk past all the delicious smelling restaurants we are so lucky to have in this neighborhood. Graziella's almost sucked us in with their rooftop dining, but we were almost at our destination and good things were promised ahead.

This evening we were headed to Luz. I didn't entirely know what to expect, I had heard 'nuevo latino' 'pan latin' and 'south american' bandied about but wasn't entirely sure what that would mean. What we found was a lovely demure restaurant bustling with loud music and a beautiful and diverse crowd enjoying eclectic drinks and fresh flavorful food carefully crafted. I loved the ambiance, it was something that I just couldn't picture finding in Manhattan any longer, it was a beautiful Brooklyn evening.

We were seated immediately found the whole staff to be friendly, attentive and helpful. You get a lovely serving of plantain chips and spicy sauce when you are seated, we ate those up right away and ordered a beer for G-pup and a Cava Guava for me. The drinks menu was full of lovely tropical fruity drinks and I had trouble choosing between the Melontini, a Caipirinha (love those) the Cava Guava - the lychee juice in the Cava Guava was the deciding factor.

We decided to try the arepas for appetizer - they were perfectly made, crisp and crunchy on the outside and tender and sweet on the inside, not at all oily, mushy or greasy. Lovely melted cheese oozing out from within, and paired with a tangy watercress salad on the side.

We had thought about ordering antojitos and ceviche for the dinner, but G-pup was really intrigued by the Salmon al Pimenton (tender, pan seared with cilantro mashed potatoes, a spicy cress salad and crunchy baby shrimps) and I couldn't get my mind off the Palmito, a salad of hearts of palm, grilled mango and a ginger-orange dressing.

So I chose that for my dinner. It worked out perfectly, the meal was filling, but I didn't feel heavy. We thought long and hard about the incredibly rich sounding desserts, but decided to pass this time, promising next time to save room for them. (And I can't wait to go to brunch - mmm, guayaba pancakes, coconut french toast and tortillas espanol).

It was a really lovely evening and I truly doubt that one could find such a great mix of ambiance, great food and friendly service in Manhattan any longer. It may be true that Brooklyn is now a much cooler place to be than 'the city' but then, I always thought that.

177 Vanderbilt at Myrtle
(718) 246-4000
Hours: Sun-Wed 5:30-11 pm
Thur-Sat 5:30 pm-12 am;
Sat-Sun: 11 am-3:30 pm (brunch)
All major credit cards

Other reviews: Citysearch, New York Magazine, New York Times, Go Brooklyn, Eating for Brooklyn,

Friday, May 12, 2006

Pulled in lots of directions

Sorry I haven't had any updates, we've been pulled in a lot of directions and haven't been able to spend as much time eating Clinton Hill as we would like :) Hope to change that (a little) this weekend.
I did get out to the BBG Plant sale member's preview. That was hoot. Long line of people waiting for the gates to open, and when they did people ran, literally RAN into the sale to grab mostly wagons but a lot of plants too. I got a couple of lovely bromeliads, and a bunch of yummy herbs. They have filled my windows, but we haven't had sun since I have put them there! We are hoping to take out a ZipCar from the PHeights garage and head over to Gowanus Nursery this weekend for a unique tree. BTW, Peonies (pictured), Azaleas and Bluebells are in full bloom at the BBG right now, and while it won't be sunny for a while, cloudy days are good for color photograph taking.

June 4 is the Tour de Brooklyn. We live in a great borough for biking (although drivers are awfully dumb about bikers, and some bikers are awfully dumb about drivers). This will be a fun group tour of parts of Brooklyn (Bed Stuy, not CH). It looks like it will be a lot of fun, look out for G-pup and I. It is also a great way to see the borough if you live in another one. If you can't make it out, I will try to remember to take pictures to blog the thing for y'all.

And if you haven't already, join Transportation Alternatives as they strive to create more livable streets in NYC - I don't know why we don't have them already, this is a perfect place to be radical about urban development. (Maybe the AY development should be working with TA to create a more open, permeable and friendly development. Right now it presents a wall of harsh buildings to the outside world, tiny sidewalks and little in the way of plazas or sidewalk cafe space).

That's me for today. Looks like a cloudy weekend and I don't see any sun in the current forecast...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Here and now...

(It's a dumb reference to Ici, we'll just let it slide okay?)

Sometimes my mind doesn't work so well... Before we even moved to CH, one of the places I was really really (really) excited about visiting was Ici. I had read about it, and drooled over their beautiful website. But all memories of that version of Ici went out the window when Mr. Minerva commented that I should go there for my breakfast yummies. Suddenly in my head, Ici was a cute little coffee shop. But oh no, it is much more than that, so much more. We did go (with the croissant and coffee in mind) last week. G-pup had the veggie frittata and I had a chocolate croissant and cappucino (I needed the consolation of chocolate).

Holy moley! If that wasn't the best veggie frittata I have ever had. It was dense and full of fresh flavors from the veg and herbs. (Of course I had a taste). It was served with the traditional Frenchie breakfast tartine, which I also helped eat. The bread tasted so French, and with fresh creamy butter and flavor packed jam... yummy. I eat tartine a lot when we are in France (oh, which by the way, is all the time*) and this one was straight from a little cafe in the Marais complete with wicker chairs and all. And as for that choco croissant and the capps - as good as they should be! Buttery layers of croissant with dark rich choco, and a well made (no overcooked milk here!) capp. Thanks for making me do it Mr. Minerva! I can't wait to go back and have another brunch in the lovely back garden (a peaceful retreat - impeccably turned out), or -ooooh - dinner with candles in the warm summer.

Later that day we headed back to DeKalb for a lovely sunset meal at Red Bamboo. So, Isa, you should go back to being jealous of 'us lucky bastards.' Although it got off to a bumpy start, it does seem that Red Bamboo is getting its Brooklyn legs under it. I ate the Carribean Jerk Chicken (fakey) and G-pup enjoyed a faux fish dish (sorry the delay in posting means I forget what it actually was). I also imbibed a 'Not your Mama's Fruit Punch.' The drink was tasty - couldn't taste the alcohol (just the way I like my drunkeness, thank you!) The food was quite good (I wouldn't say stunning - but I never thought the West 4th Red Bamboo was stunning), but it was satisfying, tasty, fresh and well made.

My jerk chix had a nice flavor, I would have liked it spicier, but the honey mustard was a nice dipping sauce. G-pups fish dish was quite tasty. More spicy than mine. The sides of mash and steamed veggies were all tasty and filling. We didn't get apps or dessert, sorry, maybe next time. We also had a nice walk home, and lots of neighborhood cats came out to see us.

*No, not really.

246 DeKalb Avenue
Hours: Sun, Tues-Thurs 8 am - 10 pm
Fri & Sat 8 am - 11 pm
All major credit cards

Other reviews: Citysearch, New York Magazine, IgoUgo, Go Brooklyn, Travel Channel, Eat Drink One Woman, Village Voice, New York Times, Cititour, The Brooklyn Rail, NYC Eats, Yelp,

Red Bamboo
271 Adelphi Street at DeKalb
does anyone know their hours yet?
cash only (right now)

Other reviews: Go Brooklyn, Clinton Hill/Fort Greene board,

Monday, May 01, 2006

Chocolate Heaven

Sorry to have been a little absent lately, last week we lost our kitty (of almost 16 years). For those who have had an animal for that long, you understand how difficult it can be. You find yourself missing their presence in everything you do. A friend said, "losing a pet is the hardest because their love is uncompromised."

Jordan, our chocolate black cat with minty green eyes has lived with me in 6 cities, and at least twice as many apartments. She was with me through good times and bad and brought me love, laughter and peace. She was the softest, silkiest cat I have ever touched. We sometimes called her puppy cat, because there were things she did (like meet us at the door) that were more like a dog. She loved taking walks in the garden, she loved playing with the neighbor dog, she loved sunshine, cuddling in bed, sleeping late and playing games. She was incredibly brave and strong through her illnesses of the past couple of years, always taking everything in her graceful stride.

I have learned more than I realize from her, and she has been by my side as I have grown and changed. She was a constant muse to me and always loved helping to create my artwork. She will always have a place in my heart. Even her passing is something from which I will learn and grow.

My wonderful chocolate kitty - Jordan, 1990-2006